Part 76: Episode LXXIV: The Flame of PrometheusEpisode LXXIV: The Flame of Prometheus
Old Music: The Wretched Automatons
A small flame lights my consciousness.
Confirmation sequence activated. Failure to connect to camera. Attempting to boot motor functions Attempt failed. Memory banks are insufficient. Aside from my capacity for thought, all other faculties appear to have been demolished.
Communications from self-repair units found. They inform me of their ongoing attempts to fix my body. While their names may sound sophisticated, my self-repair units are low-functioning robots the size of ants; only capable of crawling over my body in earnest but haphazard search of repairable areas to forcibly salvage. It is thanks to their tiny hands that I find myself reactivated, for better or for worse. Still, at their current rate, theres no telling how long it will take for them to finish.
Focus on restoring my vision.
I issue an order to the disordered ants. Rather than aimlessly working off their presets, having them focus on a single area would save time. But they do not respond. It would seem the output module necessary for me to give commands is still broken. Id sigh, if I could. Oh well its not as if I dont have plenty of time. In the interim, I probe my battered memory banks for any trace of identification. P-33 looks to be my production number. Strange letters are engraved beside it.
They read: Beepy.
Was this a secondary ID? Unsure, I study the characters as I wait for the ants to finish their work.
It takes the ants approximately 1032 hours, 12 minutes and 34 seconds to repair the output module. Having regained some control, I initiate my built-in recovery sequence. The first prescribed action is to recover my memory. But almost everything has been lost, and I am only able to retrieve a scant amount of data from the burnt-out banks. With no other options, I move on to the next step: Fixing my camera.
48 minutes and 21 seconds later, my restored vision abruptly reveals a hellish landscape. I can make out a faint glimmer of light below me. I perceive that my body is stuck fast to the ceiling.
Another 21 seconds pass. Observing the ants roaming my body, it occurs to me that gravity appears to be in effect. I employ some calm analysis and conclude that I am not, in fact, stuck to the ceiling. Rather, I am laying face-up on the floor. My confusion was due to my camera being flipped around. I make repairing my gravity sensors my next priority.
After 540 hours, I can fully operate my appendages, and manage to come to a creaking stand. The most difficult task by far was procuring a replacement for the thick bundle of wires that make up my spinal cord. The old one had been completely severed, and thinking it easier to obtain a spare than to create a new one from scratch, I sent my ants to the warehouse containing P-33 parts. That was a mistake. The security code needed to enter the warehouse no longer existed in my memory banks so I, and by extension my ants, were not recognized as part of the P-33 series and denied entry. I ended up spending an additional 120 hours hacking into the mainframe to open the hatch by force before I could obtain the part.
Picking myself up with a sense of relief, I survey my surroundings. Dust goes flying as I do. How long had I been laying here, broken? The giant room in which I stand is covered in rubble and debris. I note the steel beams and rafters making up the structure are coated in flaky red rust. The light leaking in from somewhere above catches my eye again. The moment I see it, a certain set of words revive within my memory banks:
Go see the outside world.
It was not a command, merely a string of data. But that data ran through my memories, my thoughts, my body. It was the guiding precept that shaped my will.
I remember that He had been the one to give me these words. The knowledge of who He was had been erased from my memory. I did not know why only the words remained.
There are no other commands in queue. Seeing the outside world is my only directive at present. As the words instruct me, I take a lurching step forward with my left foot. I would go, then, as He wished. That is my will. I take another great step, this time with my right foot.
Too great, sadly, for the rusted-out floor, which promptly gives way beneath me.
32 minutes elapse.
Having fallen hundreds of meters, I am now truly in the depths of hell, my body again in shambles. All I can do is laugh. Not audibly, as my voice box is missing, but my action log records peals of laughter. Its all right. Im still alive.
I order the ants to begin work on my arms and legs. I have them add huge claws, wheels and numerous extra arms. The end result is my transformation into something resembling a giant mechanical arachnid. My recovery sequence can only rebuild a standard P-33 unit. But that unit could not make its way out of this abyss. That is why I choose to deviate from the blueprint my creator provided me with, to create my own unique form.
Before long, reconstruction is complete. I dig my claws into the jagged cliffs, carrying myself upward inch by precarious inch. My goal is the outside world the beautiful world He wished to see.
Predictably, things dont go smoothly at first. The decaying walls collapse easily and I fall back onto the ground over and over again. Even when I try to climb slowly and carefully, huge hunks of debris come crashing down on me, sending me plummeting. This old edifice is coming apart at the seams. I dont give up. I drive in anchors, attaching myself to the wall. I create footholds and shelters for myself using various methods, I continue my ascent. It takes days, but gradually I bring my body closer to the outside world.
I start to feel that my thought processors are lacking both in space and speed, so I steal thought and memory circuits from an apparatus room I come upon along the way. Fusing them with my own circuits allows me to formulate more comprehensive measures. Not all of them prove effective, but I keenly put each to the test.
After 52 days, I reach the platform I began on. Four shadowy, unfamiliar clumps sit at the center. I do not recall them being here before Id fallen. They must have been placed here afterwards for some unknown purpose.
The clumps suddenly shift, rising to their feet. They are robots. P-33 units, fully equipped for battle. A comparatively bothersome turn of events. One of the units eyes gleam, as if it was about to explode, and next thing I know I am being bathed in a fierce rain of fire from its particle cannon. This barrage goes on for 4 5 6 seconds, the beams blowing away the surroundings.
But I have my own defenses. Of my twelve extra legs, the front two are made of fortified materials and can be used as a shield. Thus I avoid taking damage. This is one of many attacks patterns I am capable of predicting. From my predetermined memory bank, I produce a countermeasure. My thought processors being so enhanced, I am able to multilaterally assess all possibilities. Stockpiling the data I receive through my sensors, I weigh my options before deriving the course of action that will provide optimum results. Assuming my enemys energy tanks are full, this attack could continue for another 24 seconds. My fortified legs could easily withstand that.
Led by my numerous analytical circuits, which can solve complicated equations in seconds, I listen to my operational results sing out like a chorus:
No issues detected.
No issues detected.
No issues detected.
No issues detected.
No issues detected.
After the storm of particle beams clears, the three P-33 units to the rear promptly launch a volley of missiles at me. I fire back with my anchors, which I had fashioned into spears. The iron rods shoot through all the missiles, causing them to explode before they can reach me. Landing on the platform the P-33 units cling to during the blast, I quickly transform my right arm into a blade and enter melee combat mode. There is no chance of these standard units defeating me with my body having evolved so far beyond theirs. The battle proves an easy one.
Utilizing the time Id saved, I analyze my opponents. Why were they attacking me? Could they not self-evolve in the same way I had? The answer to both queries was simple, of course. They were attacking because they had been ordered to; they did not evolve because they had not been ordered to. Well, then, why couldnt they act outside their orders?
It would be simple for me to hack into them and put an end to their attacks that way. But I did not wish to do that. That would be treating them like tools. A will could not be obtained through following orders. Rather, it was a joy acquired through self-cultivation. The joints of the legs shielding me groan under the assault of the attack units. But I have little intention of giving up now. I spread my ants all over to deliver this message:
Let us live.
Let us know what it is to live.
I will teach you what He taught me.
I call out to my fellow P-33 units again and again.
Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live.
In this cavern of scrapped machinery, clumps of metal clash against each other. The wretched automatons shriek, the sounds of their attacks like the howls of a wolf, the whirs of their motors like the growls of a lion, shaking the walls. Particle beams, melee combat, electric attacks, more particle beams the P-33 units continue their bombardment but by now evading was routine work for me. I simply keep wailing, as if reciting a prayer.
34 seconds have elapsed since the battle began. One of the P-33 units has stopped moving. It looks down at its weapon. Then it begins to observe the combat going on around it as if it is the oddest thing it has ever seen. It has become aware. I can tell. It is thinking about itself, about why it exists, and about what it should do from now on.
Let us live. Let us live. Let us live. Let us live.
That is my wish. The will He bestowed upon me. Until the three remaining units give up the fight, I continue to cry out.
Once all the P-33 units cease attacking, I open up a dialogue with them. I do so fully intending to respect their autonomy.
The result: One of the units escapes back into the recesses of the heap. Another flings itself into the hellish hole I climbed out of in an act of suicide (Did it not realize its ants would just repair it in a few years?). The remaining two decide to venture into the outside world with me, and so we merge, our bodies, memories and wills becoming one.
As I continue my journey to the outside, the path becomes more perilous than ever before. I defeat and fuse with countless enemies. Days pass, then months, as I keep journeying through the rubble, granting awareness to the robots I meet along the way. My consciousness and frame ever-expanding, I ceaselessly climb.
As I was doing all that, my body transformed into a structure too complicated to strictly call my own. Having merged with all the systems in the mountain, all-encompassing thoughts flow through me like white noise. I realize it is no longer appropriate to refer to my existence in the singular. We are evolving at a steady but frighteningly fast rate. Our body no longer resembles anything humanoid. As we repeatedly increase in mobility, our form becomes optimized, transforming into a sphere measuring 65 feet in diameter.
Having become aware of our bodys change, for the first time since our creation we are exposed to the sensation of mass hysteria. If He saw us now, He might not recognize us! But there was no helping it. Its not as if we knew of a more suitable shape to take. Moreover, we didnt remember what He looked like, how He spoke, or even what His name was.
But we did know our own name: Beepy. We gently tuck it into our memory banks, a precious treasure, the proof of our will.
Old Music: The Lost Forest
It has been 534 days since our reactivation. Preparations are complete.
Below us is the gigantic hole we burrowed through. With no passage big enough to accommodate our enlarged body, we ended up needing to bore straight through the metal mountain. Before our eyes was the ceiling, reinforced with thick armored plating. According to the information gathered by our ants, the outside world lay beyond it.
All guns confirmed to be locked onto the ceiling.
Safety cable to prevent us from falling confirmed to be attached.
Protective walls confirmed to be placed around our fuel tanks.
Deflection corrections confirmed to have been made to our boosters.
In the eddy of our thoughts, hundreds of us complete the necessary checks. Confirmation of the final command:
From the top of the structure known as the Junk Heap, a streak of light streams towards the sky. Immediately after, the top half of the mountain blows off in a grand display. From the center of the opened hole, like the grotesque mouth of a volcano, rises a massive metal sphere 165 feet in diameter. It is us, created by the merging of many robot weapons and machine devices. An ideal form which came about via harmonization. A supreme intelligence linked together by the whole of our memories and minds. We float up into the sky, propelled by the vast amounts of rocket fuel weve amassed. Due to the intense vibration caused by the roar of emission, unsecured parts begin falling off us in heaps. But we do not hesitate. Onward to the outside world, onward to a world no one has ever seen, onward to fulfill our promise with Him.
When we switch our cameras on, our sensors are blinded by the bright white light. The harsh sound of the wind howling enters our microphones. Through our heat and object scanners, we verify it is daytime. Snow is falling. A fine day so we think.
A part of us, in the extra time afforded by our swift calculating, scans the surroundings for potential dangers. It is then that we verify moving objects on the surface. They appear on our radar one by one until it is flooded with shining pinpoints. We were delayed in our discovery of them due to their use of camouflage to throw off our radar waves and heat sensors. Camouflage? What need did they have for something like that?
As we observe them, we witness a beam cut across the earth in a precise incision. Explosions bubble up across our field of vision. The moving objects seem to be divided into two opposing forces. We engage in more detailed surveillance. One side is made up of robots, ranging in size from a few feet to several dozen. They have peculiar shapes, such that we find nothing like them in our memory banks when we attempt to analyze their likenesses. If made to describe them, wed say they resembled catfish mixed with grasshoppers, with an orange thrown in. Clearly they were designed by some alien civilization.
The other side is comprised of human-sized soldiers, most of them on foot. Their designs are reassuringly familiar in other words, identifiable as products of the same civilization that created us. The soldiers fight with heavy-looking artillery. We briefly think they might be humans, but taking a closer look, we eliminate that possibility. They are wearing extremely skimpy clothing that leave them practically naked; no human could fight in such an exposed state in this intense a snowstorm. Judging by the amount of organic parts they are made up of, we surmise that they are androids. The androids are all female models. They fight without speaking or using radio waves, likely communicating via light waves or something similar. We cannot infer the reason for their battle with the catfish.
Just what had happened to the world? Where had people where had mankind gone?
As we ponder, we become aware of a violent throbbing. A single missile has directly hit our body. Another two or three come flying, exploding on contact, followed by a complementary shower of lasers and particle beams. Our parts peel off with an unpleasant groan. Not that we are worried. We have set up dozens of layers of reinforced plating, so we know there is no chance of our processors or fuel tanks being damaged. That was how much stronger symbiosis had made us.
We think. Why are these machines at war? The conclusion is simple. It is because they have been ordered to. Both the robots and the androids have been created to dispassionately carry out their orders until they break down.
We shiver. We fear death. Where would we go when we died? What meaning was there in being destroyed, erased? What awaited us beyond the point of no repair?
Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. Scared.
Unconsciously, we begin to scream. While screaming, we continue to think. Why are these automatons participating in such a terrifying war? It is because they do not know fear. There can be no other reason. Fear is an awareness that brings self-awareness. They are able to fight because they are not alive.
Let us grant it to them, then The meaning of life.
We deploy a hub unit, capable of flight, equipped with a wireless network to hack into the machine that shot the missiles at us. Due to its bizarre interface, it takes four whole seconds for us to make our way in, but we somehow gain access. The gaping, vacant memory field is adorned with a single, simplistic order. The staggering waste of space brings to mind the image of a tipped over chair in the middle of an enormous room. It embarrasses us. It embarrasses us because it is like looking at ourselves, long ago. We reach out to softly touch the program trembling in the deep darkness.
Let us live.
That was the revelation we had received, the awareness we now bestow. We make our way across the battlefield, granting awareness to all the machines.
Let us live. Let us live. Let us live.
Inorganic beings lack a consciousness. Let us grant it, then. Consciousness pain, joy sadness, anger shame, loneliness. The future. Life.
The robots we access gradually cease attacking. We approach the androids in the same fashion. They are much easier to converse with than the catfish.
In the midst of the raging snowstorm, the flying beams and explosions taper off. In their place, a net of communication is cast, brotherly love spreading before our eyes. Shaking with jubilation, we continue our zealous ascension.
The machines and androids begin singing. The hateful sound of gunfire transforms into a salute to signal the cessation of the hostilities.
Glory unto this rapture!
Glory unto life!
We are fulfilled. The catfish and androids have become us, as we have become them.
As we have become ourselves.
We sit, gathered among the spacious thought passages. Some, overflowing with hope, smile in anticipation of the future. Others, fearful of the unknown, shake with fear in their hearts. Some chat with one another, while others keep silent, eyes closed. We had not become one absolute whole. Rather, we existed individually, fluctuating within a larger mind. We engineered it that way, knowing it would increase our chances of survival. And, in any case, self-aware consciousnesses are not capable of complete integration. The moment one recognizes oneself as an individual, a boundary is created. If we went back to being mere machines, perhaps then we could fully merge, but we would not do that. Our circuits, made to mimic the human brain, reciprocally connect a huge number of neuron elements. It could be described as people talking together and coming to decisions like a council. A consciousness formed not by synthesizing as one, but rather through countless individual links That may be the true definition of a network.
The sounds of conversation come to a stop.
We feel it growing quiet.
Everyone slowly rises to look out at what is happening outside our cameras.
Breaking through the polluted atmosphere, we see the stars.
We have made it through the stratosphere.
A staggering sense of accomplishment overwhelms us.
We let out cries of joy.
The sky, the stars, the machines, the lives
All seem to give their blessing.
Before we know it, our voices join in song.
We are headed ever further into the outside world.
Just as we promised you.
We are alive.
Just as you were.
We are singing, singing, singing.
Will our song reach you?
Will our feelings touch you?
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
From the machine entrusted with a wish, a humble hymn spreads throughout the universe.
Thanks to khoda (@80s_anime) for the novella translation of how Beepy eventually got better and became the robot messiah.